Your Last Will and Testament may be the most important legal document you create during your lifetime. Your Will has the power to distribute all your assets when you are gone, determine who oversees the probate of your estate, and even let a judge know who you want to be the Guardian for your minor child if one is ever needed. Given everything your Will can do for you, it is important that you avoid making mistakes. To help you avoid making them, a Los Angeles estate planning lawyer at Collins Law Group explains 10 common Last Will and Testament mistakes.
- Procrastinating. The most common reasons provided for the lack of a Will are the belief that one isn’t needed because the individual’s assets are not sufficient and/or because the individual is single and without children. The bottom line is that it is never too early to execute a Will because every adult can benefit from a Will.
- Doing it yourself. Going the DIY route for home repairs might (or might not) save you time and money; however, doing so with your estate plan is far more likely to cost your loved ones a considerable amount of both time and money when it comes time to probate your estate.
- Lack of detail. It may seem like a tedious job, but when it comes to making gifts in your Will, be as specific as possible. If you are gifting money to someone, explain exactly how much, where the funds are located, and provide the account number. If you are gifting “household furnishings,” provide some details and an address where they are located.
- Vague beneficiaries. Avoid referring to beneficiaries as a vague group, such as “my children” or “my siblings.” Provide names and contact information. This becomes particularly important if you intend to include stepchildren or adopted children as well as stepsiblings or half-siblings.
- Appointing the wrong person as your Executor. All too often, a Testator simply fills in the name of a spouse, adult child, best friend, or family member as the Executor of his/her estate without giving any real thought as to whether that person is the best choice or not, leading to delays or costly mistakes when it comes to probating the estate.
- Omitting assets. One of the most common mistakes people make when they go the DIY route is failing to distribute their entire estate in their Will. This, in turn, results in the need to open an intestate estate probate which can significantly prolong the probate process.
- Minor beneficiaries. Understandably, as a parent you want to provide for your minor children; however, by law, a minor cannot inherit anything from your estate. Therefore, leaving assets to your minor child in your Will serves only to complicate the probate of your estate because a court may then be forced to decide who will guard those assets until your child reaches the age of majority.
- Leaving out an heir without explanation. You are free to distribute your estate in any way you wish, meaning you can disinherit anyone you wish. Although you are legally required to provide a reason, when you simply leave an obvious beneficiary out of your Will without explanation it dramatically increases the likelihood of a challenge to the Will. It is best to acknowledge the individual and be clear that you intend to disinherit him/her.
- Not understanding the need for ancillary documents. A Will can accomplish many things, including the distribution of your entire estate after you are gone; however, your Will does not help in the event of your incapacity. Your Will also does not help provide guidance on issues related to end-of-life medical decisions nor is it the best place to mention your funeral and burial wishes.
- Failing to update. Executing a Last Will and Testament is an excellent first step toward creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects you and your loved ones. For that Will to continue to work as intended, however, it must be updated on a regular basis as well as when life events call for an immediate revision.
Contact Collins Law Group
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about creating a Last Will and Testament, be sure to consult with an experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorney. Contact the Collins Law Group by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.